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TONKOLILI DISTRICT: Chinese nationals in illegal stone mining

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

The influx of Chinese nationals into Sierra Leone with their clone investment package is beginning to showcase negative signs that may soon destroy viable development potentials in the country. In one of last week’s edition of this medium, highlights were made as to how Chinese nationals are engaged in illegal timber logging and export, using the newly built Chinese Hospital at Hasting as the Den for processing and packaging timber product for onward transmission to China and other parts of the world.

As if the illegal trade and exporting of timber products are insufficient to enrich some of the Chinese hustlers in the Country, recent investigation conducted by this medium has showcased some of them in another illegal mining practice in some parts of the Tonkolili District.

A Company, known as the Chinese Wantong Mining Company recently sneaked into the Country under the guise of doing  genuine business is reportedly causing severe destruction on the hills of the Masombiri Village in the Kafe-Simeria Chiefdom, Tonkolili District.

The Environment Protection Act, 2008 requires Mining Companies and other major entities to undertake Environment Impact Assessment License prior to carrying out any operation in the Country.  This is not the case for the Wantong Mining Company operating in the Tonkolili District.

Officials of the Environment Protection Agency in Sierra Leone have confirmed during a recent monitoring exercise across the Country that the Wantong Mining Company has been carrying out illegal underground mining operations on the Masombiri Hills for the past months without observing legal procedures, implications environment impact and degradation.

An official of the Wantong Mining Company has confirmed that the Company is mining special stones containing minerals for export to China. The stones, he disclosed contain special minerals that are mined underneath a tunnel of about 6ft radius and more than 300 ft deep on the hills surrounding the Masombiri Village. The Chinese Company is also using dynamite blasting within the tunnel and villages within the areas are reportedly affected by the blast which is done randomly during the day and at night. The mining activity of the Chinese is threatening the peaceful co-existence of the different communities located within.

The Chinese nationals are allegedly co-habiting on the hills with some Sierra Leonean workers as their place of abode. Investigations also revealed that their mining operations are done without the expressed permissions of the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources but the newly established National Mineral Agency is probably aufait with the illegal mining operation of the Company.

 

Up to time press reports state that as a result of failures on the part of officials of the Company from meeting the correct procedures prior to mining of the special stones and in consideration of the environmental impact, officials including Mr. Abdulai Kargbo of the Environment Protection Agency in Sierra Leone  have raise the red flag against  the Wantong Mining Company, ordering its officials  to stop all operations in the Tonkolili until they fulfill the Environment Impact Assessment status with the Agency. In the words of Abdulai Kargbo, he said “From now onwards you must stop all operations on this site until you are able to regularize your EIA License Status with the Agency”.  If Wantong fails to comply with the order of the Agency, the Agency will be left with no alternative, but to throw the legal books on its officials.

In another development, the EPAL-SL has also ordered the Global (SL) Ltd Mining Company to stop all operations until its meets the EIA License Status. The Global Mining Company had engaged in Gold Mining activity in the Kalmaron catchment areas in the Diang Chiefdom, Koinadugu District without fulfilling the legal procedures expected by its officials as mandated by law.

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